Playoffs primer: Best teams, games, players, storylines for round two

Warner Robins wide receiver Daveon Walker (11) runs after a catch against Cartersville during the first half of the Class 5A football championship game Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020, at Center Parc Stadium in Atlanta. (Jason Getz/For the AJC)
Caption
Warner Robins wide receiver Daveon Walker (11) runs after a catch against Cartersville during the first half of the Class 5A football championship game Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020, at Center Parc Stadium in Atlanta. (Jason Getz/For the AJC)

Credit: Jason Getz

Credit: Jason Getz

The Georgia high school football playoffs hit the round of 16 this weekend as 128 teams remain in contention for eight state championships that will be played Dec. 9-11 at Georgia State’s Center Parc Stadium.

Here is a look at some of the more intriguing players, teams and matchups as the playoffs move toward the quarterfinals.

The favorites: No. 1-ranked teams won by an average score of 50-10 in the first round. They are Collins Hill (Class 7A), Buford (6A), Cartersville (5A), Marist (4A), Monroe Area (3A), Rabun County (2A), Trinity Christian (A Private) and Irwin County (A Public). Collins Hill, Monroe Area, Rabun County and Trinity Christian have never won state titles.

Top players: South Atlanta’s Keyjuan Brown and Trion’s Rob Brown, the state’s two leading rushers, put on a show in the first round, each rushing for more than 400 yards. Seven of the AJC’s preseason Super 11 are still playing. They are Lowndes quarterback Jacurri Brown, Ware County quarterback Thomas Castellanos, Oconee County tight end Jake Johnson, Collins Hill quarterback Sam Horn, Collins Hill wide receiver Travis Hunter, Carver-Columbus lineman Elijah Pritchett and Rabun County quarterback Gunner Stockton. Hunter, the state’s No. 1 college recruit, has been out with an injury since Oct. 1.

Regulars: Ten teams are in the round of 16 for the 10th consecutive year or longer. With their streak in parentheses, they are Benedictine (10), Blessed Trinity (11), Buford (23), Brooks County (14), Calhoun (21), Callaway (10), Cartersville (10), Eagle’s Landing Christian (14), Prince Avenue Christian (11) and Ware County (15).

Newbies: Six teams are in the second round for the first time. They are Alcovy, Athens Christian, Haralson County, Kennesaw Mountain, Lithia Springs and Luella. Those ending long droughts are Columbia (last appearance 1997), Villa Rica (1998) and Shiloh (2000).

Gone already: Colquitt County’s streak of first-round victories ended at 12 last week when Walton beat the Packers. Others notably absent are Greater Atlanta Christian (last miss was 2011), Coffee (2013), Clinch County (2014) and Rome (2014).

Best second-round game: Fourth-ranked Warner Robins is at No. 1 Cartersville in a rematch of the 2020 title game that Warner Robins won 62-28. Cartersville is 59-5 over the past five seasons. Warner Robins is 62-8.

Other gems: Fourteen other games match top-10 teams. Among them are No. 8 Marietta at No. 3 Milton in Class 7A, No. 9 Blessed Trinity at No. 2 Woodward Academy and No. 5 Creekside at No. 8 St. Pius in 5A, and No. 7 and defending champion Callaway at No. 3 Bleckley County in 3A,

What’s next: Thanksgiving week will usher in the quarterfinals, the first time that region champions can face off. If higher seeds win in the second round, the elite eight will render No. 1 Collins Hill at No. 5 Lowndes in Class 7A, No. 1 Buford at No. 2 Lee County in 6A, No. 1 Marist at No. 2 Benedictine in 4A and No. 1 Monroe Area at defending champion Pierce County in 3A.